A few weeks ago, my husband and I started streaming the television show, Mad Men. Like so many people, we were taken in by 1960's styles, themes, indulgences, and pervasive ignorance of the era we were both born into. Not since The Hardy Boys in the late seventies have I been so addicted to a TV show.
Unlike The Hardy Boys, however, Mad Men is disturbing. The juxtaposition of beauty/elegance and the ugly, gritty side of human nature is both appalling and intoxicating. For 48 minutes, we can put our normal, morally conscious, sweatpants-wearing lives aside and indulge in the dramas of a culture that is truly outrageous by modern-day standards.
And what's wrong with that? Isn't this what novels, plays, television, and movies are for: to entertain us and allow us to experience aspects of life that we would never have access to on our own? And, hopefully, to teach us valuable lessons so we won't have to suffer any more than necessary? Absolutely.
The only problem is that these shows (movies, etc.) can get inside our heads and mess with us. For a sensitive soul like me, once a week is a reasonable dose of Mad Men, but my husband and I have been knocking back an episode or two several times a week, and I'm definately feeling affected by it. I find myself buying into and reacting to the conflicts of modern life more than I did before, and feeling more jaded. This is disconcerting to me.
You might argue that Mad Men is no more outrageous than much of what is going on in our culture today, and I'm sure that's true, but inviting any kind of disturbing content into our living rooms and our minds has its consequences. I think that entertainment thrill-seekers (and passive viewers alike) don't always realize how much their peace of mind is compromised by what they allow into their consciousness.
So, what about you? Do you watch the news every night before you go to bed? Do you enjoy crime shows or horror films? If so, does this material consciously bother you? Have you become desensitized, perhaps? Do you find Mad Men or some other program addictive? Please share your thoughts. I'd love to hear from you.